I’ve been to Vegas twice. Once for my bachelorette party and once with my husband to visit my cousins. The two trips could not have been more different, but they were both so much fun. My bachelorette party weekend was to this day, one of my top favorite weekend ever. On that trip, seven of my closest friends and I flew out to Vegas and stayed at the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel for a weekend filled with sushi, spa time, and VIP bottle service. (Special thanks to my cousin and her husband for arranging everything that weekend too. It seriously could not have been more perfect). We had one of the best meals I’ve ever had at Yellowtail (Japanese fusion and sushi) and danced all night at Chateau, a nightclub filled with gardens and located under the Eiffel Tower.
Fast forward 4.5 years and Alex and I were way overdue for a trip to Vegas together. We wanted to spend time with my family, eat some good food, have a pool day, see a show, and do some atypical Vegas activities like hiking. We spent three nights at the Cromwell, thanks to my cousin’s husband, and accomplished all of those goals.
Cromwell is a super sexy, swanky boutique hotel owned by Caesar’s. From the plush velvet wallpaper to the see-through shower, the bohemian and seductive decor evokes the feeling of a more opulent time. The staff is fantastic and can help you out with any reservations you need. The property features a casino floor, gift shop, cocktail lounge, Drai’s pool and nightclub, and Giada‘s restaurant.
The cocktail lounge, Bound, is a sophisticated and intimate lobby bar with live music and drinks created by a well-respected international mixologist. Drai’s is a 65,000 square foot beach club and night club. We didn’t experience it at night because the lines to get in were so long, but we did spend a couple of hours at the rooftop pool during the day. There wasn’t a beach party that day so it was pretty calm and quiet, but that was just fine with me for relaxing in the Las Vegas sunshine. Drai’s is complimentary for hotel guests and $20 for non-hotel guests.
Sushi Samba, located at the Venetian (but on the Palazzo side), consists of cuisine that fuses Brazilian, Peruvian, and Japanese influences. Loud and energetic, this would be a great place for a group dinner. A chef’s menu is available, and our server encouraged us to try it, but we preferred to choose our own menu items. We ordered a selection of dishes and enjoyed every single one! What to order: Tuna tataki, sea bass with Peruvian corn (definitely our favorite dish), Wagyu beef gyoza, and the El Topo sushi roll (with salmon, jalapeño, fresh melted mozzarella, and more).
Giada, located at the Cromwell, is home to celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis’s Italian restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food is incredible, creative, and surprisingly light for Italian cuisine due to Giada’s fusion of Italian and Californian cuisines. The atmosphere is on point with an open kitchen and huge retractable windows overlooking the Strip- ask for a window table that looks out over the Bellagio fountains for the best experience! What to order: charred octopus, lemon crab arancini, buffalo mozzarella ciliegine, and there was a pea pasta that doesn’t seem to be on the menu, but that was to die for!
DO IN VEGAS:
I grew up listening to the Beatles and they are my all-time favorite group, so it will come as no surprise that we saw the Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil show while we were in Las Vegas. I had been wanting to see the show for years and even with already high expectations, it was still even better than I imagined. The show takes you through the ten years of the Beatles music with coordinating costumes, acrobatic and dance choreography, and videos. A couple of the songs are even done on rollerskates. It’s super engaging with a lot of crowd involvement (I won’t spoil that what that means) and a serious treat for all of the senses. Octopus’ Garden was easily my favorite experience of the night! Beatles LOVE is located in the Mirage and before and after the show, there are several photo opportunities available to commemorate the experience. ProTip: Buy the least expensive seats available and there is a strong chance that you will be moved down to a lower section because the show is not sold out.
After dinner or a show, go for cocktails at the beautiful Cosmopolitan chandelier bar that is literally inside of a stunning chandelier. The bar is three stories filled with shimmering and shining beads. It feels like you are inside of an art piece.
Head down to old Las Vegas, near Freemont Street, to check out the Neon Museum, also known as the Neon Boneyard, where you can take a short one hour tour to learn all about the history of Las Vegas while viewing some iconic neon signs. Each sign has a unique story about how it was built, what it was used for, and it’s place in the city’s history. Tours are available seven days a week most of the day and evening for $19 per person (discounted tickets available for seniors, students, military, and state residents). ProTip: If you visit during the summer like we did, try not to book an afternoon tour as the sun is quite brutal and light is harsh.
DO OUTSIDE OF VEGAS:
Note: If you want to get outside of Las Vegas, I highly recommend renting a car. While you really don’t need a car if you plan to stay on the Strip (walking and ubers will get you where you need to go), you will definitely want your own transportation to explore some of the surrounding areas without taking a group tour.
Drive to Red Rock Canyon for a hike amidst the 3,000 high red rock formations. Just don’t forget water – your sweat will evaporate in the dry heat so its easy to get dehydrated without knowing it. Located only 20 miles from the Strip and $7 per car, it is well worth the drive. Our favorite trail was the Cadillac Tank trail, which is an intermediate hike (with a little scaling). I’ve never seen anything like the red cliffs and desert views in Red Rock Canyon. The unique features were formed by geological forces including fractured faults and fossilized sand dunes. The red comes from iron oxide build up over centuries. You might also see wildlife like burros, rabbits, coyotes, bighorn sheep, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, hummingbirds, wild horses, bobcats, and mountain lions. Once you are finished with the trail, drive the rest of the 13-mile scenic loop and enjoy more magnificent views of the canyon. You’ll be hungry after your hike, so pick up a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake at In and Out Burger on your way back to the Las Vegas Strip.
If you travel to Las Vegas before May 2018, be sure to visit the Seven Magic Mountains. Located about 10 miles south of Las Vegas, a large free public art installation of seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders stands brightly in the middle of the desert. Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone intended to capture the idea of the human presence in the desert. The 30 to 25 foot stacks are on view for 2 years from May 11, 2016 to May 2018 and are an instagram dream. The neon colors set against the drab desert background are the perfect metaphor of the neon lights of the Strip in the middle of the desert. On the way back, cool off with a treat at CJs Italian Ice and Custard. My favorite is the gelati, italian ice and custard swirled together for a delicious dessert.
Another great place to hike is at Lake Mead. With 1.5 million acres of mountains, canyons, valleys, and two lakes, there are ample opportunities for hiking, cycling, camping, boating, and fishing. There are several recommended trails (just ask one of the national park rangers), but since we were limited on time, we did the Historic Railroad Trail which is closest to the park entrance and visitor center. The Historic Railroad Trail is an easy hike with fantastic views of Lake Mead, Boulder Basin, and Fortification Hill. The information signs will guide you through the construction of the railroad as you walk through railroad tunnels. You can actually take the trail all the way to the Hoover Dam (a little under 4 miles), but we decided to just hike about half of the trail out and back for the same distance. There is no reprieve from the sun so although it is a great trail, the heat is brutal! We saw several bighorn sheep along the trail and enjoyed the beautiful views of Lake Mead.
Since we were so close to the historic Hoover Dam, we decided to visit the largest water reservoir in the country (by volume). Tours are available and I’m sure would provide a lot of information if you are interested in the construction of the dam; we just didn’t have the time! We walked around on our own and admired the impressive structure that was built in the 1930s Depression era. One of my favorite parts of the Dam was the art deco design throughout. On your way back to Vegas, stop for lunch at Chilly Jilly’z in Boulder City. We found the restaurant on TripAdvisor and it was a great little cafe with excellent sandwiches, bakery items, and Dole Whip cups.
That’s it for Las Vegas! We had such a great time visiting my family, hiking around Las Vegas, and eating great food. I hope to return soon – maybe for the Britney Spears or Backstreet Boys show. Thanks for reading!